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Usually I can rightly talk about the snow that we're getting, or going to get. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, at this moment it actually looks like it's all about what everyone else is going to get. Altho all the skiers would prefer to find that glass half full, as someone who has a snowblower in the repair shop, I'm kind of happy that it looks as if it's going to be less than half empty! I do like winter, but I'm getting a bit tired of blowing snow and frankly I'm starting to long for some warm rock. I know that goes against the grain trend right now, but that's just how I'm starting to feel.
By this time last the ice season in the lower elevations was close to done-for. I did my 3-sport day (XC ski, ice climb and ride the bike) on March 8th and by March 15th pretty much all the ice in the Notches was gone or basically unclimbable. Even the ice in the ravines had taken a solid hit. We're in a lot "better" shape this year so far, and things should hold out at least another couple of weeks unless we get a rain event or a bunch of consecutive sunny and warm days. And even that wouldn't matter all that much if it was cold at night, but that's been a bit of a crap shoot the past week or so. We had a run of days in the mid to upper 30's where it didn't get below freezing at night, even at the top of Crawford Notch, and that's the kind of thing that puts the stake through the heart of an ice season. The past couple of days it's been in the upper 20's at night and cloudy during the day, and that preserves the situation.
The ice is still generally pretty good in places where it's not in direct sunlight all day. Otherwise the top several inches is starting to turn that milky white color and get aerated, and that's not conducive for reliable ice climbing. I went over to the Drip In The Woods on Tuesday and although it was kind of punky, I was able to throw a rope up on it and use my Shunt to get in a few laps. That was good practice, and especially nice since it's really close to my house. usually it's in better shape, but it gets a lot of sun so I guess it is what it is...
This morning I was able to convince Brad White, owner of IMCS, to get out and do Hobbit with me. We drove up through the Notch and took the Report pictures and then popped up the hill to the Frankenstein parking lot. The first car we saw, right at the the top of the road, right next to the RR tracks, was George Hurley's Toyota in his "reserved" parking space! He was getting out with 2 young friends in tow.
As you probably remember, the 78 year old George had both knees replaced a while back. well this has given him a new lease on his climbing life and he's going at it great guns. I went out with him the first time he climbed ice this year and he led Elephant Head right off the bat. Since then he has led all of the 4's at Frankenstein including Hobbit, Chia Direct, Dracula, Pegasus, etc. They were headed over to do Smear. Brad and I hustled down the tracks and up to Hobbit. There were a couple of guys (Dustin and Doug) finishing up the Pegasus Rock Finish and they rapped down the gully as we geared up. We chatted a bit and it turns out that they live down near the Gunks and know George's friend Pauline who George and I saw last fall when we were down there. It's a small, climbing, world...
I puttered up the lower gully and it was in good shape, mostly packed snow. I ran in a screw where it got steep for about 8' and then cruised up to the base of the pillar. Years ago I used to climb to the Rock Finish belay to break it up into 2 pitches, but lately I've done it in one push. With all that rope out, the stretch gives you a lot less shock loading on the gear if you were to fall. Not that I'm going to fall, mind you! The ice was really solid, tho all hollowed out, as it usually is. And of course there were tons of old ice screw holes everywhere you would want to put one of your own in. I have to admit that I didn't put in a single of my own screws in the steep part of the climb. I just found holes that were filling back in and ran in my own screws. I read an article in the AMGA magazine a year or so ago stating that this was acceptable as long as the screw doesn't rattle around. Of course that made me use 7 screws in the relatively short climb. I pitta say, tho George had told me that he thought it was "easy, like just walking up a ladder" I thought that it was pretty hard, certainly all of it's 4/4+ grade. As always you need to look over on the left wall for crampon placements on the rock, using any and all available places to stem. The crux move to me was the very last one. The ice was umbrella-like at the very top, before you get to the last easy snow slope, with about a 2' cut back. You have to use a small rock indentation on the right edge of the umbrella as a foot hold to stand up and get into the upper gully. It was committing and very cool. Hobbit is a neat climb. I don't find it particularly strenuous, but it is very technical and committing. I always love doing it every year.
ROAD ALERT REDEUX:
West Side Road, coming from town by the strawberry fields just before where you turn into Cathedral Ledge, has some of the worst frost heaves I've seen in a while AND IT'S GETTING WORSE! The side going into town is especially bad. Be forewarned!!!!
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective December 9, 2016
Everything is in the process of rapid change right now. It hasn't gotten above 25 degrees all day (Friday) here in the Valley, it is surely colder up in the Notch. I would bet that at this rate by Sunday things will have radically changed, for the better! Although there was more ice in Crawford Notch on Wednesday than last week, IMO there was nothing climbable. A few folks have made the hike up into the Ravines, but things are fairly thin up there as well. A few days ago I saw pictures of a friend climbing the Open Book in Tucks. I asked about gear and they said that while climbable, it was basically unprotectable! Doesn't sound like much fun to me, but of course YMMV...
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